Bonus Post: Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

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An era ended earlier this month, but unless you were walking through Rittenhouse Square on Monday evening two weeks ago, you would have missed it. We marked the occasion with picnic blankets, cocktails, a delicious dinner, and boisterous laughter. It was Lauren’s last book club meeting.

Lauren founded our beloved book club and has provided us with as many scrumptious culinary creations as thought-provoking literary insights. (In fact, you may remember her referenced as one of my favorite Philly foodie friends in a previous post.) She’s a kindred spirit with a huge heart,  infectious laugh, an an insatiable appetite for peanut butter!

I brought these Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars to our picnic to add the sweet to our bitter. I’m just glad Lauren loved them as much as we’ve loved getting to have her in Philly for a few years. :)

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • 1.5 cups almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Filling:

  • 1.5 cups peanut butter
  • 4.5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4.5 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup of reserved filling mixture
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Instructions:

For the Crust:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 6×9 baking dish with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all crust ingredients.
  • Press mixture into bottom of prepared baking pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is light brown and firm to the touch. Cool completely.

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For the Filling:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine peanut butter, coconut oil, and honey.
  • Remove 1/2 cup of mixture and reserve in a small bowl for topping.
  • Stir in chocolate chips to remaining filling mixture; spread onto cooled crust.
  • Place baking dish in freezer for 20-30 minutes or until filling is firm.

For the Topping:

  • Stir cocoa powder and honey into reserved filling mixture.
  • Melt 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon coconut oil; mix with peanut butter mixture.
  • Spread chocolate topping on semi-frozen bars. Refrigerate to firm.
  • Store bars in the refrigerator.

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This recipe was adapted from Living the Nourished Life.

International Spy Museum & Surprise Scotcheroos

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This past Tuesday I took the train to DC to visit one of my favorite friends from college who was home from Louisville. My friend E is a kindred spirit. We always pick up exactly where we left off and despite time and distance are always on the same page. After a yummy lunch at Founding Farmers, E suggested a visit to the International Spy Museum. Given recent current events and my desire to visit the museum since it opened in 2002, it felt like the perfect way to spend a rainy DC afternoon.

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Since there are more spies in Washington, DC than anywhere else on earth, it’s fitting that the city has the only public museum in the US dedicated to the field of espionage. One of the reasons for the high number may be that the museum trains each visitor!

The first stop  is a room filled with cover identities. Each visitor has to select and memorize an identity, which he/she is expected to recall at anytime.

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Next up, it’s the briefing room where visitors learn about the real world of spying and the many different motivations for being a spy.

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E and I weren’t motivated by patriotism, money, blackmail, or ego, just fun! So we entered the School for Spies ready to try anything and everything. Lucky for us it was filled with interactive exhibits intended to help us master four basic skills: observing a scene accurately, blending in with the crowd, assessing risks, and responding to threats swiftly and coolly.

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It was also our first exposure to some of the 600+ international espionage artifacts in the museum. We were amazed by how many common things could be turned into spy equipment — purses, lipstick, toys and, yes, even suitcases.

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The suitcase radio was issued by the Polish SOE in the early 1940s for secret communication between Poland and England using Morse Code. Sadly, there were no sweet-related artifacts. ;)

Spying is the second oldest profession, and the museum dedicates galleries to tracing the history of espionage beginning in Biblical times. For example, we learned that while now regarded as assassins, Ninjas were actually professional spies in 12th century Japan.  Coming from the Japanese word that means “the art of the shadow”, Ninjas were trained to enter a place undetected, gather information, undermine the enemy, and strike when least expected.

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The museum experience concluded at present day with an exhibit on contemporary intelligence challenges like cyber terrorism and included a lighter special exhibit celebrating 50 years of James Bond villains.

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Neither E nor I have ever seen a Bond film (seriously!), but we both love to bake and did some brainstorming about what sweet treat would accompany this post.

I decided to sneak some surprises into and under the cover of the popular recipe for Chocolate Scotcheroos.  You won’t need to break a code to follow this simple recipe

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and, while the first thing they tell you upon entering the Spy Museum is to trust no one, you can trust me that these Surprise Scotcheroos are oozy, gooey, sweet, and delicious!

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 10 oz. marshmallows
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 8 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 12 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Instructions:

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  • In a large pot over medium heat, cook corn syrup and sugar, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.
  • Reduce heat to low; stir in marshmallows. When marshmallows are melted, remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.

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  • Add Rice Krispies and stir until well coated.
  • Press half the mixture into a 13x9x2 pan coated with cooking spray.
  • Add Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and cover with remaining mixture. Set aside.

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  • In a small saucepan, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips over low heat. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO WASHINGTON, DC: 136 miles

Savannah Music Festival & Rocky Road Brownies

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Visiting Savannah over Easter turned out to be perfect timing as it coincided with the Savannah Music Festival. The festival, Georgia’s largest for musical arts, is held over two weeks each spring

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and showcases multiple genres. Many of the acts have a strong focus on Southern music and, since we had ventured south of the Mason-Dixon line for the weekend, we decided to join in the festivities!

Known by the locals as SMF, all events take place in downtown Savannah in venues that are well-known, historic, or intimate, like the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum where we saw the Red Stick Ramblers perform.

Behind Scarbrough House

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and through the serene garden

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is a fantastic outdoor venue,

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perfect for a Cajun dance party! Red Stick Ramblers blend traditional Cajun music with Western swing, blues, and jazz for an energetic performance that left even those still in their seats with their toes tapping.

Among the eclectic group of artists scheduled to perform during the festival were well-known headliners, innovative soloists, and some masters of their craft. In fact, on our first night in town, we saw an act billed as the Masters of Bluegrass.

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Making significant individual contributions to bluegrass for more than fifty years, J.D. Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Bobby Osborne, Del McCoury, and Jerry McCoury came together to delight the audience at the Trustees Theater.

And, lucky for me, the Trustees Theater just happens to be next door to  Leopold’s,

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an ice cream shop that always has a line out the door! (With good reason!) Founded in 1919, the shop still retains its old-fashioned look and feel

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and continues to make homemade ice cream one batch at a time. Handsdown, the chocolate ice cream at Leopold’s is the best I’ve ever eaten.

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So with a whole year to go until next year’s festival — the 25th! — I wanted to bake something that would remind me of the chocolate ice cream at Leopold’s and the experience of seeing Bobby Osborne perform his hit and Tennessee state song, “Rocky Top”…Rocky Road Brownies!

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 3/4 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds (Note: Sea salt flavored almonds used in this post)
  • Caramel sauce (optional)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with foil; coat foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk to combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

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  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat melted butter, sugars, and egg on low speed until combined. Add vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
  • Beat in dry ingredients until just combined. (Batter will be thick.)
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Transfer batter to foil-lined baking dish. Bake until set, approximately 18-20 minutes.

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  • Remove from oven and top with 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 3/4 cup marshmallows, and 1/2 cup almonds. Bake another 4 minutes to soften marshmallows and chocolate chips.
  • Remove from oven. Drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired, and cool in baking dish.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO SAVANNAH: 637 miles

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